Mason lifts Men's Basketball over Whittier with late basket

Photo by Chris Mora

LA VERNE, Calif. — Another clutch situation called for another hero and Khaneal Mason answered the bell for the University of La Verne men's basketball team this time in a 91-89 win over Whittier on Saturday afternoon at Sports Science and Athletic Center.

Mason went coast-to-coast for a game-winning layup with 2.3 seconds remaining on the clock to halt the Leopards' four-game losing streak and put his team back on track.

Trailing 89-87 with 25 seconds left in the game, the Poets forced a huge turnover and took advantage when Eric Jennings drove in for a layup to tie the game at 89-89.

Mason then drove up to front court, hesitated for a second on the right wing and blew past his defender for the game-winner.

Whittier launched a desperation heave as time expired but it wasn't close.

La Verne improves to 9-11 overall and 7-4 in the SCIAC. Whittier slips to 11-8 and 7-4. The two teams are now tied for second place in the SCIAC standings.

"We made a couple of tough plays down the stretch," La Verne head coach Richard Reed said. "Our guys just found a way to make a play—a couple of key stops, a couple of rebounds and we took care of the ball. I'm very proud of our guys to have pulled themselves out of a funk."

Jordan Stokes set the table for the Leopards with a couple of big post moves down the stretch. He put the Leopards up 87-86 with a jump hook with 1:31 left to go and converted another shot just like it to give the Leopards a three-point lead with 53 seconds left. "I'm proud of Stokes," Reed said of the 6-foot-5 forward. "He had two turnovers in the first half that were just silly and I told him, 'You're better than that and you're tougher than that,' so credit to him being a mentally strong young man."

Before Stokes, Nicholas Lewis did most of the damage inside for La Verne. The senior forward finished with 16 points and 10 rebound, making tough shots and hitting his free throws to help the Leopards keep pace with Whittier. "Nick has to play like a senior and he played like a senior today," Reed said. "He can post up, shoot the three and I challenged him to start rebounding the ball, so credit to him."

Cruz Mertens, who is quietly up to 38 percent shooting from downtown on the year, made 4-of-7 today for 14 points. Hakim Arnold had with 14 points and Mason finished with 10.

La Verne was lights out from the field. The Leopards shot 52.5 percent from the field and a scorching 56.3 percent from long range.

Eric Jennings and Andrew Torres, who combined for 55 points in Whittier's 91-89 win over the Leopards on Jan. 6, were held to 29 points today.

The Leopards are back in action on Wednesday at home against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.